Monday, August 17, 2009

Personality and Love

I've been thinking a lot about personality lately. Rob and I have totally different personalities: He is high-strung, impatient, and passionate. I am mellow, slow-but-steady, and shy. This leads to fights sometimes, but they don't matter that much. They usually have to do with me being too timid to send back a dish I don't like at a restaurant, or his spouting off his political opinions at inappropriate times. We are together a lot- we both work from home, and we are going bike touring together- so these little flare-ups happen quite a bit.

But one's personality is quite separate from their values, and these Rob and I are totally aligned on. All the major decisions in our lives have been made together, harmoniously, from moving to Argentina to choosing bicycle touring as a hobby to keep us fit. Keeping this perspective helps me through the times when I get mad at him- he might talk too much or eat what I had saved for myself in the fridge, but he also has offered to live with my mother when she is too frail to take care of herself.

Personality has little to do with friendships, either. Often, I will make friends with someone new because their personality is charming and bubbly (I am shy, so making friends with another shy person doesn't happen as often). But one's personality has little to do with whether we become close friends or not. Choosing friends has more to do with values. A bubbly charming person who thinks that lying or stealing is acceptable is not going to be my close friend. There are people whom I enjoy having lunch with, but lose respect for when I find out they believe in a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world (seriously, this has happened).

I was very saddened when an acquaintance going through a divorce told me that she loved her husband, but he was "too critical" all the time. Granted, there might be more to the relationship than I will ever know, but I hope she is not tearing apart her life for a personality conflict.

Too often we admire those who "get along with people." We hold this up in school and in corporate life. But getting along with people is really as superficial as whether someone is well-groomed. It matters, but less than we think. It's important to see past the personality to the real person- and this has to do with what one values, the decisions based on those values, and the actions based on the decisions.

So the next time Rob annoys me by yelling at the AM radio station or makes me cringe by asking sensitive questions at a dinner party, I remember that he has also encouraged me to quit my job if I want to write full-time, helped lift my father from the bed to the toilet when he was ill, and just finished a road trip with my mother in the back seat to visit my family.

That's Love.

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